The Arts at Christmas
If there is one time of year guaranteed to get people out of the house and into theatres, cinemas, concert venues and the like, it’s Christmas. The arts spring to life at Christmas, and although as a nation we have a proud heritage of exceptional live shows and extraordinary events, during the festive period we really go all out to impress, which is why so many of us choose Christmas time to go out and enjoy ourselves. And why not? With so much on at this time of year, it would be a shame not to sample at least some of it. Across Sussex, we are lucky enough to have a really rich programme of arts at Christmas; here are some of the most exciting events to fill you with seasonal spirit.
Stephen Sheldrake at Worthing Theatres is the man in the know when it comes to live events. We asked him what makes this time of year so perfect for going out and enjoying live theatre.
“The festive season is the perfect time to bring families together. With the hustle and bustle of shopping, sometimes it’s nice to slow down and enjoy the escapism of live theatre,” Stephen told us. “December is always a great time for theatre programmes as it brings a variety of great family productions and festive music concerts. In Worthing particularly, there is a fantastic offering. Not only is there the traditional yearly pantomime at the Pavilion Theatre, which this year sees a six week run of The Pantomime Adventures of Peter Pan, starring Richard McCourt, one half of TV duo Dick and Dom. Kippers Snowy Day is also showing at the Connaught Theatre, as well as Roy Wood and his band at the Assembly Hall – the man who sung festive classic, ‘I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day’. Worthing is a great town for finding Christmas gifts at the bustling markets; accompanied by some exceptional entertainment, this makes for the perfect day.”
Christmas Gothic // 3 Dec // Hawth, Crawley
Christmas: a time to remember the past, celebrate the present, and look to the future; a time of feasts and festivities; of holly and mistletoe; a time of visits and visitations. A time of ghosts. Come in from the cold and enter into the Christmas spirit as a dark and spectral woman tells haunting tales of the festive season, lighting a candle to the frailties of human nature and illuminating the cold and chilling depths of the bleak, wintry dark…
Father Christmas Needs A Wee // 17-18 Dec // Connaught Theatre, Worthing
At every house Father Christmas eats and drinks the tasty treats that have been left for him. But, when he reaches number ten he realises that he’s forgotten to do something rather important and he really, really, really needs a wee! TaleGate Theatre Productions hit the perfect combination of witty humour, fantastic music and the extra sparkle for which they have become known in this fabulously funny and brilliantly bouncy musical adaptation of Nicholas Allan’s much loved book.
Kipper’s Snowy Adventure // 19-29 Dec // Connaught Theatre, Worthing
Kipper and his best friend Tiger go on an adventure in the snow – but on the way they lose their friend, Arnold, in a terrible storm. Will they find him? And will they find their way back home? Based on the award-winning Kipper stories by Mick Inkpen, Slot Machine present the first stage adaptation of these well-loved books.
Filled with original songs and music, gorgeous puppetry and gentle humour, this warm-hearted Christmas show is perfect for children and their families.
Although it may not be quite as traditional as live theatre, visiting the cinema for a festive film or performance is becoming increasingly popular, especially when it means being able to see performances that would otherwise be out of reach due to cost or location – or movies that would otherwise not be seen.
NT Live: The Nutcracker // 8 Dec // Connaught Theatre, Worthing
The Royal Ballet’s glorious production of The Nutcracker, created by Peter Wright in 1984, is the production par excellence of an all-time ballet favourite. It is Christmas Eve and Drosselmeyer the magician sweeps young Clara away on a fantasy adventure in which time is suspended, the family living room becomes a great battlefield, and a magical journey takes them through the Land of Snow to the Kingdom of Sweets. Tchaikovsky’s glittering score, the gorgeous festive stage designs and The Royal Ballet’s captivating dancing – including an exquisite pas de deux between the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Prince – make this Nutcracker the quintessential Christmas experience.
Muppets Christmas Carol // 23 & 24 Dec // Connaught Theatre, Worthing
A retelling of the classic Dickens tale of Ebenezer Scrooge, miser extraordinaire. He is held accountable for his dastardly ways during night-time visitations by the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future. This film is a favourite with families at this time of year, telling the age old story of Scrooge in a completely accessible way.
It’s A Wonderful Life // 16-18 Dec // Electric Palace, Hastings
Jimmy Stewart is the owner of a money lending company that for years has been helping people in his town live their dreams. But when one Christmas he has one calamity after another, he decides to take his own life, believing everyone would be better off if he had never lived.
Ice skating is a classic Christmas treat for the whole family – whether you take to the ice, or choose to watch, rinkside, with a warming mug of hot chocolate or mulled wine, you’ll have a wonderful time. There is nothing quite like a gorgeously decorated and brightly lit ice rink on a winter’s evening to put the spark of excitement into everyone’s heart.
Brighton Pavilion Ice Rink // 5 Nov-15 Jan
The backdrop to this ice rink is the former Royal Palace in Brighton, and it really does look spectacular when it is bathed in purple and pink light. There is plenty to eat and drink here, so skaters can replenish their energy levels, and non-skaters can enjoy good food and hot drinks on the restaurant terrace.
Steyne Gardens // Worthing // 11 Nov-27 Feb
A fully covered ice rink means that no matter what the weather’s like outside, your skating fun won’t be cut short. This is a true family event with special sessions for those aged under four who want to give ice skating a try; there are also penguin helpers to give everyone a bit of a boost when it comes to the ice! Besides skating, why not indulge in some tasty hot drinks and snacks and really make a day of it at the large food and drink marquee.
Priory Meadow Shopping Centre // Hastings // 25 Nov-2 Jan
Known for being both fun and excellent value for money, the ice rink at the Priory Meadows Shopping Centre in Hastings is well worth a visit. With special festive lighting and snow showers to surprise and delight the skaters, as well as the chance to catch up on your Christmas shopping while you’re there, this is one rink not to be missed.
Concerts and Music
Christmas is all about music, and whether it is a stirring round of carols or some of the catchiest pop music around (‘Fairytale of New York’ is our favourite), as long as there is a Christmas theme to it, it’s a joy to listen to.
Brighton Gay Men’s Chorus // Brighton Dome // 10 Dec
Back by popular demand, the country’s biggest gay men’s chorus outside London returns to the prestigious Brighton Dome Concert Hall to celebrate the festive season. Join Brighton Gay Men’s Chorus and peek behind the scenes in Santa’s grotto, where elves will be taking centre stage and working their magic to see that everybody gets what they want. What will they be putting in your musical stocking? It might be an old favourite, this year’s must-have novelty, or a big surprise.
Brighton Festival Chorus Christmas Concert // Brighton Dome // 11 Dec
Join Brighton Festival Chorus, Brighton Festival Youth Choir and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra for this annual highlight. Get in the festive spirit with all the family and join in with this joyous and humorous celebration of the very best of Christmas music, including the chance to sing along to your favourite carols. There’s also a chance for one lucky person to try their hand at conducting Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus!
Christmas Day Concert // Eastbourne Bandstand // 25 Dec
We are so blessed in Sussex that we can even find events happening on Christmas Day itself. One of those events is the Christmas Day Concert performed by the Eastbourne Silver Band. With rousing carols and traditional festive tunes guaranteed to stir the heart of anyone listening, why not take a stroll out before lunch and enjoy some of the very best in local culture?